“More and more women are given antidepressant medication while they are pregnant — and an increasing number of children are diagnosed with autism,” said Jakob Christensen, Ph.D., a researcher at Aarhus University in Denmark.
“This has given rise to concern over a possible connection.”
He noted that “in contrast to other, smaller studies, our survey cannot demonstrate that the risk of having a child with autism is increased by taking antidepressant medication during pregnancy.”
In a large register study, Christensen and his colleagues followed more than 600,000 Danish children born between 1996-2006. The survey is the largest undertaken, so far, of the correlation between the use of antidepressant medication during pregnancy and autism, according to Christensen.
Initial results showed there was almost a 2 percent risk of having a child with autism for pregnant women who take antidepressant medication during their pregnancy. For women who do not take antidepressants during pregnancy, the risk was 1.5 percent.
The researchers also analyzed siblings and parents’ psychiatric diagnoses. When those were taken into account, the risk is shown to be minimal, according to Christensen.
“We know from previous studies that there is an increased risk for autism, among other things, if the parents have a mental diagnosis such as depression,” he said. “But we cannot demonstrate that the risk is further increased if the mother has received prescription antidepressant medication during the pregnancy.”
“By analyzing data for siblings we can see that the risk of having a child with autism is largely the same regardless of whether the mother takes antidepressant medication or not during the pregnancy,” he concluded.
The study was published in the journal Clinical Epidemiology.
Source: Aarhus University